Caroline's cover image

Caroline Butler-Bowdon

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: New South Wales None > Museums, Galleries And Libraries
None > Tourism
To investigate the best new global models of visitor accessibility and experience at heritage sites - UK, Denmark, USA, Canada

Key Findings:

To evolve our heritage tourism industry in Australia we need to be live to what’s happening internationally and draw inspiration from the best global models. This Churchill Fellowship has exposed me to some of the best programs, business models, structures and methods to achieve this. Here are my findings and recommendations:

  1. To remain financially and culturally sustainable, heritage sites must evolve.
    For heritage to succeed it must remain flexible, open ended and adaptable, avoiding stasis. The best strategy is programmatic evolution balanced with a program of major episodic renewal. Continuous investment is required to ensure that the business model and the physical offer keeps pace to changing visitor expectations.
  2. Overuse of heritage sites is a myth that often leads to underuse.
    It is critically important to be mindful of this myth and provide different mission-focused and authentic uses, and create new business models in commercial, retail and programs to boost visitation and yield.
  3. Aggregating heritage experiences around precincts is a must, not a nice to have.
    Cities have become major brands in themselves and there is fierce competition to attract the substantial revenue that accompanies cultural and heritage districts in cities. Greater definition and promotion of cultural districts with coordinated branding of connected experiences is required. We need to focus on effective placemaking, conceptual and marketing linkages between visitor offers and extend focus from individual monuments to precincts. The connection both at places and between places is where experience happens.
  4. Springboard to the city and region.
    Historic sites need to be the springboard for understanding place and the city or region in which they are located. Drawing out the stories of site and context are central to a successful and meaningful heritage tourism experience. For Sydney to realise its potential as a global city leader we need to create clear visitor precincts with a quality and differentiated history and heritage tourism offer to meet domestic and international tourism needs (i.e. Sydney’s identity story, indigenous narrative, multicultural narrative).
  5. Indigenous stories.
    We need to continue to work with Indigenous communities to understand and share their stories of country, community and continuing culture, with locals as well as tourists.
  6. Be careful of mission drift. Keep institutional goals very sharp.
    Don’t be seduced by new facilities, new programs and chasing audiences and revenue streams that are inauthentic to the purpose of the place and not core to mission. Create no more than ten goals with clear key performance indicators. Maintain discipline in achieving these goals, measure them and broadcast them (the Blenheim way).
  7. Clear distinction between old and new.
    Australia needs to continue to push for sympathetic but contemporary architectural adaptation of heritage assets in our cities and towns and avoid mimicking the architecture of the original monument or site.
  8. Creation of heritage routes is a major trend and key to aggregating success.
    Create partnerships between sites and symbiotic products with local leisure, hospitality, food and recreation neighbours and providers.
  9. Good vision and policy are required to argue the value of social, cultural and economic benefits of heritage.
    Australia is lagging behind in building a case for value and impact of heritage tourism. Other cities and countries are far more advanced than Australia in building a case for the social, cultural and economic benefits of heritage and tourism. It is timely for Australia to improve its annual reporting at a national and state level on the impact of national and world heritage listed sites and monuments and their impact on visitor experience and tourism. Central to this reporting is analysis of how heritage tourism offers create new jobs, businesses, events and attractions, thus helping diversify the local economy.
  10. Integrate cultural and heritage assets into broader government thinking for greater impact.
    We need a much broader integration of cultural/heritage assets in whole-of-government planning strategies to make precinct and program strategies. Heritage sites and agencies need to work together with other government agencies in health, education, social services to create integrated programs with major societal impact.
  11. Getting on world heritage lists or bucket lists can become the platform to success.
    Presence on UNESCO lists or bucket lists doesn’t ensure success but certainly provides a platform for exposure. The arrival of the bucket list has heralded a new, more competitive global audience hungry for heritage experiences. Use listing to your advantage.
  12. Heritage must work for citizens as well as tourists.
    Places lose their authenticity if tourists are consistently privileged over citizens. Towns and cities with heritage tourism at their heart and core to their economies, must work for citizens as a priority so that the city avoids sanitisation and stays real for tourists and liveable for residents.
  13. The hallmark of most successful heritage sites and place-based museums is a unifying experience, both online and onsite.
    Undertake visitor mapping to create visually and conceptually holistic experiences from website engagement; to arrival/departure; gallery and site experiences, overlay of programs, food, beverage and retail experiences and conversion of visitors to members.
  14. Quality and diversity of visitor offer, not price, are key to attracting visitors.
    The creation of a seasonal program of activity with clearly defined offers for different audiences is crucial to success. Balance free, affordable and premium experiences as well as intimate to large-scale.
  15. Story first, technology second.
    Focus on the story and the message first and choose the technology second. The best global models combine hands-on experiences with new technology to engage and immerse inter generational audiences. The best models continuously evolve their visitor program offer.
  16. Shop, eat, dwell.
    The act of shopping, eating and dwelling are core to the heritage tourism experience. These facilities should not be afterthoughts or add-ons but need to be core experiences and central to the master branding of the whole site experience. They can powerfully extend the experience of what’s special at historic sites.
  17. Don’t forget about local community.
    Create linkages with local communities, make neighbourhood and community plans to transform accessibility and how they connect with places.
  18. Think beyond the monument to the outdoors.
    Think beyond the built form to the outdoors. Visitors are seeking different types of experiences. Focus needs to be placed particularly on landscape and outdoor programs as this is a growing trend.
  19. Take the opportunity to create visitor programs that shift visits from social experiences to emotional engagement.
    The relevance and connection of our sector to contemporary life is a growing focus of heritage and museum experiences.
  20. 20th century iconic houses and structures are riding a wave of popularity.
    There is significant growth in heritage tourism at iconic houses by the 20th century greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Luis Barragan, Mies Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier leading the charge.

Keywords: Heritage Sites, Visitor Accessibility, UNESCO, Living Museums, Cultural Heritage, OECD Countries

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